Slumping Bulls Face Near Must-Win Vs. Champion Spurs Thursday
There’s no such thing as an absolute must-win game at this point in the NBA season, but Thursday night’s TNT opener between the Spurs and Bulls at Chicago’s United Center is pretty close to one for the home team. Spurs-Bulls as an NBA Finals matchup was the favorite for a while at Sportsbook.com but is now priced at +1300. San Antonio is a 2-point favorite for this game.
Chicago might be close to imploding as it has lost six of the past eight games and is 1-7 in the last eight starts made by Derrick Rose. The Bulls were totally outclassed in a big game on Monday in Cleveland, losing 108-94. It was the sixth time in that eight-game stretch the Bulls allowed at least 100 points. The team has allowed triple digits 22 times in 43 games compared to 22 in the entire 2013-14 regular season when Chicago led the league in scoring defense. Right now that group is just 16th at 99.7 points per game.
The Bulls shot only 38 percent from the field in the Cavaliers’ win. It is their fifth-worst shooting game this season. The Bulls have had three of their five worst shooting games this season since the start of the New Year. It was also the third-lowest shooting percentage this season against the Cavaliers. Opponents had shot 49.9 percent against them in their previous five games. Also since the New Year, the Bulls have gone 5-6 and are allowing 106.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s the sixth-worst defense in the NBA during that span. Overall, the Bulls are 12th in defensive efficiency this season. Since Tom Thibodeau has been in Chicago, the team has never been outside of the top five in that statistic.
Rose had some strong sound after the loss to the Cavaliers, mentioning the Bulls allowing easy baskets and not competing. Tied-in NBA reporter Chris Sheridan reported that Thibodeau has lost the locker room and that eating the remaining money (roughly $11 million) and years (two after this season) on Thibodeau’s contract will not be a concern to management or ownership if they decide to fire him. Nothing is likely to happen as the Bulls have desperately missed an injured Joakim Noah, who has missed the past three games and 10 overall. He’s doubtful for Thursday. Starting forward Mike Dunleavy hasn’t played since Jan. 3 and isn’t likely back Thursday.
The Spurs bring a four-game winning streak into this one, winning 109-99 in Denver on Tuesday. They are finally getting healthy, now only missing reserve guard Marco Belinelli. Kawhi Leonard just came back from a hand injury and is averaging 16.3 points in the past three. Point guard Tony Parker is rounding into form after missing much of December with a hamstring strain.
San Antonio and Chicago split two meetings last year, neither of which Rose played. Chicago won 96-86 in San Antonio with seven players in double figures. Parker tallied 20 points, while Tim Duncan registered 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs. In Chicago, the Spurs won 104-96. Manu Ginobili scored 22 off the bench in his lone appearance of the season against the Bull.
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